Launching Tools and Workflows

Tutorial Goals

  • Launch a tool and a workflow using the Dockstore CLI

Dockstore CLI

The dockstore command-line includes basic tool and workflow launching capability built on top of cwltool. The Dockstore command-line also includes support for file provisioning via plugins which allow for the reading of input files and the upload of output files from remote file systems. Support for HTTP and HTTPS is built-in. Support for AWS S3 and ICGC Score client is provided via plugins installed by default.

Launch Legacy Tools

If you registered a tool on Dockstore without using GitHub apps, then you have a legacy tool. You may want to test it out for your own work. For now you can use the Dockstore command-line interface (CLI) to run several useful commands:

  1. create an empty “stub” JSON config file for entries in the Dockstore dockstore tool convert

  2. launch a tool locally dockstore tool launch

  3. automatically copy inputs from remote URLs if HTTP, FTP, S3 or other remote URLs are specified

  4. call the cwltool command line to execute your tool using the CWL from the Dockstore and the JSON for inputs/outputs

  5. if outputs are specified as remote URLs, copy the results to these locations

  6. download tool descriptor files dockstore tool cwl and dockstore tool wdl

Note that launching a CWL tool locally requires the cwltool to be installed. Check onboarding if you have not already to ensure that your dependencies are correct.

An example of launching a tool, in this case a bamstats sample tool follows:

# make a runtime JSON template and fill in desired inputs, outputs, and other parameters
$ dockstore tool convert entry2json --entry > Dockstore.json
$ vim Dockstore.json
# note that the empty JSON config file has been filled with an input file retrieved via http
$ cat Dockstore.json
  "mem_gb": 4,
  "bam_input": {
    "path": "",
    "format": "",
    "class": "File"
  "bamstats_report": {
    "path": "/tmp/",
    "class": "File"
# run it locally with the Dockstore CLI
$ dockstore tool launch --entry --json Dockstore.json

This information is also provided in the “Launch With” section of every tool.

Launch Workflows and GitHub App Tools


GitHub App Tools run in the CLI’s workflow mode.

Launching GitHub App Tools, CWL Workflows, and WDL Workflows

A parallel set of commands (convert, wdl, cwl, and launch) are all available under the dockstore workflow mode.

While launching tools and workflows locally is useful for testing, this approach is not useful for processing a large amount of data in a production environment. The next step is to take our Docker images, described by CWL/WDL and run them in an environment that supports those descriptors. For now, we can suggest taking a look at the environments that currently support and are validated with CWL at and for WDL, Cromwell.

For developers, you may also wish to look at our brief summary at batch services and commercial solutions such as DataBiosphere dsub and AWS Batch.

Launching Nextflow Workflows

Currently the Dockstore CLI does not support integration with the Nextflow CLI. However, the Nextflow CLI offers many of the same benefits as the Dockstore CLI.

All non-hosted workflows in Dockstore are associated with a Git repository from GitHub, BitBucket, or GitLab. With the Nextflow CLI we can launch a Dockstore workflow by using this Git repository information through pipeline sharing.

Say we have the workflow organization/my-workflow. To launch, we would run the following commands based on the code repository that the workflow is stored on. See the link above for more advanced usage.

# Run workflow from GitHub (--hub github is optional)
nextflow run organization/my-workflow --hub github

# Run workflow from BitBucket
nextflow run organization/my-workflow --hub bitbucket

# Run workflow from GitLab
nextflow run organization/my-workflow --hub gitlab

Next Steps

We also recommend looking at the best practices guide before creating your first real tool/workflow. There are three descriptor languages available on Dockstore. Follow the links for the language that you are interested in.

See Also